Vulkan Lives

Following the events of the Dropsite Massacre at Isstvan V, the primarch of the Salamanders legion is taken captive by his erstwhile brother, Konrad Curze, and continually tortured, but each time he is killed, he reawakens to some fresh hell at the hands of the Night Lords’ primarch. Vulkan, it turns out, is a perpetual, so nothing Curze throws at him will kill him. During their final encounter, though, where Vulkan recovers his hammer with its in-built teleportation homing beacon, he escapes the Night Haunter’s clutches only to seemingly burn to a skeleton while entering the atmosphere of an unidentified planet.

While all of that is going on, we also follow the Word Bearer Elias, who is acting on Erebus’ orders to recover a weapon from the world Traoris. Thing is, the weapon, a fulgurite spear, has already been recovered by the perpetual John Grammaticus, and so the Word Bearers track him down – killing his colleagues, but John is rescued by a group of Shattered Legions marines. The Word Bearers are able to recover the fulgurite though, which turns out to be a shard of the Emperor’s own psychic lightning frozen into rock. Elias intends to use it in a ritual to convert Traoris into a daemon world, and sets about killing the entire population while the sniper Barthusa Narek leads a kill team to take out the Shattered Legion. John Grammaticus is killed, but comes back to life and receives a psychic message from Eldrad Ulthran to save Vulkan – the spectacle of John coming back from the dead convinces the marines, especially their leader Artellus Numeon of the Salamanders, that Vulkan did indeed survive Isstvan.

Things get crazy when Erebus decides to show up. The fulgurite changes hands left and right, and eventually finds its way back to John Grammaticus, who is allowed by Erebus to go on his way, because his mission is actually to assassinate Vulkan using the spear.

Well, folks, I have to say, I did not expect a great deal from this book. I have almost zero interest in the Salamanders legion, so a book seemingly about their primarch held no special joy for me before I cracked it open. I have to say, though, that I was actually quite impressed! The scenes with Vulkan and Curze did become a little confusing at times, and there is a lot of back-and-forth in terms of flashbacks and stuff, which may be intended to show the fragile state of Vulkan’s mind? However, I kinda knew all about Curze torturing Vulkan, and that Vulkan is a perpetual, as it’s one of those things about the 40k universe that is quite common currency, even if you might not know where it comes from, you know?

If I had given it any thought prior to picking this up, I suppose I would have expected to have read something along the lines of Deliverance Lost, which follows the Raven Guard after Isstvan V. However, we seem to be in a position where a good number of the Raven Guard survived, but the Salamanders are truly smashed at the Dropsite Massacre – we have a scattered handful here, we’ve met one or two in other novels since, etc. It’s quite sad, in a way – again, I am not a Salamanders fan, but I find it interesting how few survived the battle. I actually feel really bad for Vulkan’s legion, as Curze is almost right on this point – it seems his legion cannot be rebuilt…

I find that any Heresy book with the Word Bearers in it turns out to be a very good book. As they are something like the prime movers and shakers within the “spiritual” side of the Heresy (if you could call it that), I do enjoy seeing what they’re up to. A lot of it tends to be shadow operations, as they seek to corrupt the universe to Chaos, while Horus and his lot are more of the belligerent conqueror types. Unfortunately, given how long the Heresy series has been at this point (this is book 26, with no end in sight), it all seems to fall a bit flat. Even though there is a cast of billions in the series, trying to sustain interest in the major players and make them remain compelling has already become a horrible task. Here, we have a return of Erebus, but somehow he isn’t as interesting as he used to be. John Grammaticus, first introduced back in Legion as the agent of the Cabal with their own interest in the course of the civil war, is okay but just confusing at times. The new characters, particularly on the Shattered Legions side, are all pretty bland, and I didn’t get much of a sense of “this is a Salamander” and “this is an Iron Hand” from them.

But I had started with pretty low expectations – no interest in Salamanders, and the last time I read a Nick Kyme novel, it was Damnos, which I did not enjoy – so it was a more enjoyable read than I thought it might have been!

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